Feb 212013
 

This piece is written by Spring 2013 intern Natalie, around her thoughts about beginning thesis research on the BDSM and Leather communities. To read more work by current and former interns, check out the Intern Corner section.

As a second-semester college senior, time is winding down and the pressure is picking up. Next week, I begin the two straight months of research and writing that will be devoted to my senior thesis in Feminist and Gender Studies.

The trouble with my thesis is not that I haven’t started yet, or that I’m stressed out about writing it: the trouble is talking to anyone outside of my department about the topic. I am writing my thesis on BDSM and leather culture, likely looking at social hierarchies that exist in this subculture, or at these communities being spaces of resistance. This is a valid topic, and I don’t need to justify it to myself–but I hesitate to answer every time someone asks me what I’m writing my thesis on. A series of assessments begin before I even open my mouth: are they going to judge me? Does this person even know what BDSM is? And if they don’t, I’ll have to explain. And when I do, will this person laugh at me or make fun of me? Will they make assumptions about my sex life?

At a very liberal liberal arts school, I don’t have to be as cautious as I might in the real world. But even so, I made the mistake of opening up to a lab partner a couple of months ago because he seemed genuinely interested, and spent the rest of the homework session enduring jokes about whips and chains at my expense.

The truth is, every time this happens, I am more sure than ever of my choice. A society hostile to deviant sexual expression has driven participants in BDSM acts and relationships to effectively go underground. BDSM practitioners face many of the same issues as other sexual minorities, a realization that to me has been reinforced over and over as I endure an “outing” process every time I talk about my thesis topic.

Given all of this, I was nervous when I applied for a research grant at my school to spend time at the Leather Museum and Archives in Chicago. In fact, I spent most of the proposal justifying why I was even studying this culture, rather than talking about the actual research I will be doing, simply because I was concerned about the review committee’s initial response to a proposal titled “Performative and Actual Inequality in BDSM Culture.” But the more I consider the social stigmas, the more I am motivated to study the histories of leather culture and to be a part of a declaration, reclamation, and creation of an identity. ‘

Aug 162012
 

If you haven’t read my review for Becoming sage, I suggest you do so first, as this is second in the series.

Local Colorado authors Kasi Alexander and Reggie Alexander do it again; they create a great book of hot BDSM erotica that balances realness and relationships far better than Fifty Shades of Grey ever could. In Saving sunni, the relationship between Sir Rune, sage and sunni (lack of capitalization is on purpose) continues here, but this time, their trials and tribulations are more than the traditional tests of a relationship. There is great commentary on how society and the law tends to view BDSM, as well as some of the protesters members of the kink community sometimes have to go up against.

Like the first in the series, it features sex scenes and kink scenes that are hot, well written, and mirror the type of BDSM/kink I see practiced in my community. There is talk of safewords and limits, of sharing your feelings and reactions, of the education side of things. It demonstrates that no relationship is without its challenges, but that you don’t need a handsome millionaire with mommy issues to sweep you off your feet in order to be kinky.

As a Denverite, I again loved the references that I recognized, from the store sunni worked at to traveling up Colorado Blvd, and of course, the local dungeons that went into the creation of the Keyhole. Knowing that Kasi and Reggie are members of the local community, and live in a real life Master/slave relationship with their third partner (very similar to the book, no?) makes me feel like this text is written more from the heart and experience than from some romantic notion of what power play relationships might potentially be. To folks looking for a great intro into BDSM (particularly from a straight, non-monogamous point of view), I think the Keyhole series is the perfect set of books for beginners, designed to arouse and educate without providing false information or setting up unrealistic expectations. I’d highly recommend this to the person looking for something in the 50 Shades vein, but with more authenticity and a more readable writing style.

To purchase a copy, click here for your own Saving sunni

-Shanna

Jul 052012
 

I’m not going to lie. I was a hold out. I really, truly, based on the feedback of others, didn’t want to read this book. I didn’t. However, after I started to get requests for press snippets based on the book, I figured that I was being pretty ridiculous to not read it. THIS book is the hot subject in sexuality right now; it’s the Rabbit Vibrator of Sex and the City of 2012. I needed to read it.

So I bought Fifty Shades of Grey and brought it with me on our trip to Florida to read over. I had heard that it poorly represented the kink community, that the writing was terrible, that is was boring, etc. I tried to go in with an open mind, but I’ll admit, I had some bias.

My thoughts:

The writing, especially the first few chapters, felt like an 11th grade essay. It was as if someone had told the author that she needed to be more descriptive, so she would use about four or five adjectives every time she tried to describe something. One might call it flowery language. To me, this was kind of annoying. However, as some folks have pointed out, not everyone has the same reading level, and this use of language might make it more accessible to more people. This is a great point, and while I still may grumble about her descriptions of Kate on the first few pages, I get that this allows more people to read. More people reading is awesome, PERIOD, even if I personally don’t mesh with the writing style.

The characters are interesting in that in some ways, they are over developed, in other ways, they aren’t at all. I think it’s nice having a heroine who isn’t blonde and stereotypically thin yet buxom…on the other hand, I think it’s a little sad that she has to get her self confidence (the little she gains) from someone who is not her. I have trouble supporting the idea that we have to rely on partners to love ourselves. Also, I cannot imagine (also noted by Jack Stratton) that someone is ridiculously “old-fashioned” and formal as Mr. Grey would call Ana “baby.” I mean, really? That was not well thought through.

I have some issues with the idea that he wouldn’t even consider playing with her (or anyone else, for that matter) a few times before bringing up the idea of a full time (or full weekend?) slave contract. I feel like if someone did that in our local community (“If you’re interested in me, you must sign a 24/7 contract before we can see if you like this and if we are compatible together”), we would call out that person for predatory behavior (actually, this has happened in our community, and said person was banned from multiple dungeons for poaching on newbies to the scene, and contracting them to his “house” without allowing them to get their footing first).

So yes, I have issues overall. However, I do appreciate that they covered STI testing and safewords (though I would have rather them talked about dams too, and condoms for oral, rather than just penile-vaginal), which are frequently left out of romance style novels and much erotica. I like that they talked about consent. I don’t like that she was banned from discussing things (I think that is a huge part of being kinky is trying new things, discussing your feelings/reactions with others, and tweaking what your like/don’t like), but I get that is was part of his millionaire schtick.

Is it the BEST intro book into kink? Perhaps not. I personally would recommend Becoming sage by Kasi Alexander
(here is a link to my review of Becoming Sage) as a book I feel better fits the reality of the community (and also has a writing style I like better). However, I think this is a good Gateway Book into kink. If people read this, and it gets them hot, and that then inspires them to join FetLife, read kinky erotica, check out local kink events, and to have their desires fulfilled, then it is absolutely successful, whether or not I think it is perfect. So if you or your “friend” (or actual friend) is considering this, remember to take it with a grain of salt (it IS a romance novel), but know that for many folks, this is the book that revolutionized the way they look at sex. And that, my friends, is an excellent thing!
Click here to buy your own copy of Fifty Shades of Grey .

 

 

Mar 172011
 

Just as I fly back home from presenting freaking fantastic workshops at Brown University and the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, I’m heading off again on Friday to Portland, Oregon to deliver three classes at Kinkfest. I’ll be teaching Safer Sex for Kinksters, Three Isn’t Company (Poly and Kink), and Communication in a Kink Context, as well as holding offices hours, hitting up the play parties, dancing my butt off at the queer/kink Rainbow Dance Party, seeing friends, hanging with the folks from Enigma in Salem, OR and more.

If you’ll be attending Kinkfest, please make sure you drop by one of my classes or my office hours and say hi! Would love to meet more sexuality learners and educators in the Pacific Northwest!

Shanna

Feb 032011
 

This afternoon, I’m super excited to have one of my favorite dommes in the entire world on my Let’s Talk Sex Radio show at 4pm MST. Who could it possibly be?

Why, it’s Mistress Saskia, the headmistress of Pavlovia Denver, owner of the RACK Room, and all around awesome-sauce person!

Mistress Saskia Pavlovia Denver

Mistress Saskia of Pavlovia Denver (Photo Credit: Bizarre Mag)

We’re going to talk kink, BDSM, ropes, role play and oh so much more, for the most novice bondage beginner to those who have lived in the lifestyle. Plus, as always, toy reviews, lots of giveaways, the Position of the Day game, and lots more fun.

Just listen to 1100AM KFNX in the Phoenix area, or head over to the Let’s Talk Sex Radio Show webpage to stream it live on your computer. Tune in, turn on, and have fun!

-Shanna

Feb 182010
 

I don’t know what is is about this week, but lots of people have been talking about some of the ‘nilla hate that goes on in the kink community.  First, there was Lee Harrington to who mentioned on twitter that vanilla is a valid and delicious flavor (both in food and sex).  Then Mollena got up on her rockin’ soap box, and wrote this excellent post on anti-vanilla bigotry.

This has always been something that bothers me, and it is not specific only to the kink community.  Marginalized groups and minorities have started to become bigots towards the “traditional” and the majority.

Example A: Lesbians/dykes who tell straight identified women that they “just haven’t come out yet” or who joke about converting them to be dykes.  Yes, lots of people haven’t come out yet, but not all straight women are lesbians. No matter how much we want it to be. And it is offensive to tell a person that their orientation isn’t valid; and that goes for straight, gay, bisexual, queer, asexual, etc.

Example B: People who are poly/non-monogamous telling other people that ALL of monogamy is a social contruct, and that everyone is really inately non-monogamous and that monogamous people are doing it wrong.  Just because one group has to struggle in being outside the norms of society (being non-monogamous), and it works perfectly for them does not mean that it is not ok to be the norm. Acceptance for ALL methods of relationships please.

Example C: Partially from Mollena, partially from my experience; kinky people/those in the BDSM community who use vanilla like a perjorative term.  “God, we were being all pervy and then this vanila person made us stop doing our thing” or “They SAY they’re vanilla, but they just don’t know what they’re missing.”  Some people are not kinky. AND THAT IS OK. They have fun, exciting, arousing, satisfying awesome sex with no kink. And I know people who are kinky as heck, and have really bad sex (according to them).  Ergo, fabulous sex is not based on how kinky you are.  So we do we pretend that there is something wrong with not being kinky?

Then even within communities, we create levels of how kinky we are. I’ve been told by some people that I’m extra super kinky because I like to do fire play and light people up.  I’ve been told by other people that I’m really not kinky because I don’t identify as a top/bottom, Mistress/submissive, and I choose not to live the lifestyle 24/7  or have power based relationships. So I’m either really kinky or really not kinky. How come I can’t *just* be kinky with out putting levels on it?

In understand that there is an inate need to make our wants/needs/identities/kinks the best, especially if we’ve been oppressed as a community. However, the answer it NOT to do it by telling others that they are wrong. That just perpetuates the binary and is stupid. The end.